First Holy Sepulcher Alfombra

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Most people in the Diocese of Pittsburgh know of the Eucharistic Procession on the feast of Corpus Christi primarily because parishioners at Holy Martyrs have been building their carpets of sawdust for the past 50 years or so. Others learned of the tradition while on mission in Patzún, Guatemala. There the Spanish word, alfombra, is used to name a carpet that leads from the church for two or three kilometers through town.

The Guatemala Mission Group decided to build a short alfombra as part of tis booth for the Holy Sepulcher Bazaar, August 7, 2011. Rachel McGrath, a young and extraordinarily gifted artist from the parish, was recruited to create original artwork that was used for the alfombra. Our alfombra is built Patzún style with layers of color laid down using masks of cardboard to make intricate images. The sawdust, left overs from Holy Martyrs this year, was generously given to the parish.

The story of the first Corpus Christi processions,excerpted from  Fr. Tommy Lane’s “Homily for the the Solemnity of Corpus Christi – the Body and Blood of Jesus” appears below.

    In the year 1263 a priest from Prague was on route to Rome making a pilgrimage asking God for help to strengthen his faith since he was having doubts about his vocation. Along the way he stopped in Bolsena 70 miles north of Rome. While celebrating Mass there, as he raised the host during the consecration, the bread turned into flesh and began to bleed. The drops of blood fell onto the small white cloth on the altar, called the corporal. The following year, 1264, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus, today’s feast, Corpus Christi. The Pope asked St Thomas Aquinas, living at that time, to write hymns for the feast and he wrote two, better known to the older members of our congregation, the Tantum Ergo and O Salutaris. That blood-stained corporal may still be seen in the Basilica of Orvieto north of Rome, and I had the privilege of seeing it during the time I lived in Italy.

The full homily is available:


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